The little numbers that have been popping up on menus might make customers more aware of calorie counts, but the system doesn’t necessarily yield a change in behavior.
A study published in BMJ found reviewed lunch purchases in New York City before and after the city’s calorie count law took effect. Overall, customer surveys and receipts showed no significant change in calorie intake.
As the Wall Street Journal‘s health blog points out, having the information, which will soon be available around the country, is useful. It’s just more useful for the people who, you know, use it.
Some things to keep in mind:
Average calories per purchase fell at McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain and KFC after the law took effect in New York, but that could also be attributed to those chains beginning to offer more healthy options.
When restaurants promoted size and value instead of nutrition, calories per purchase tend to rise.
A 2010 Quinnipiac poll showed 84 percent of NYC residents found that having the information available to them is useful.